Playing the Long Game

Playing the Long Game: How To Keep Your Cool And Stay Focussed For Long Term Success

It’s all too easy to be the kind of trader who goes all in but finds themselves unable to maintain that winning performance. Are you one of them? Whether you are, or not, I guess the main question is

How can you stay on top of your game and avoid burn out?

Note: As I write this article, the world is going through the covid-19 pandemic. Some markets are more turbulent than others. Having said that, this is more staying cool and focussed is even more crucial.

Staying focused is a daily discipline

While it’s highly likely that you’re a trader reading this, no matter what line of business you’re in it’s probable that work comes in peaks and troughs. Or to put it another way there are times when the hours fly past as you career headlong into the day’s tasks with barely time to drink a coffee and there are times when you’re staring at the clock willing the day to come to an end.

Truthfully, neither of these scenarios are ideal.

Because, when you’re up against it with pressure on all sides bearing down on you, the luxury of being able to plan and strategise your next move is just that, a luxury. On the opposite end of the spectrum, when monotony and tedium set in very often de-motivation follows closely behind. The outcomes are the same – the minimum gets done and long-term goals go out the window.

Change For The Win

As a unique species in this planet, we like to feel that we are adaptable. In some ways, of course we are, adaptation within a species is normal, commendable and necessary for survival. Take those populations who live at high-altitude settings such as The Andes. Over the last 3,000 years at least studies have shown the oxygen content of their blood has increased to cope with living high up. These people are not just used to living in extreme conditions, their bodies have adapted to allow them to do so successfully.

And so it is with you, as a trader. Sometimes the idea of changing our go-to habits can be unattractive. Sounds familiar?

The way you do things, is the way you do things and who’s to tell you otherwise? As the oft quoted expression goes:

Insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting different results.

Now, that may be over egging the pudding somewhat.

You see, the habits you follow do get results, they have to otherwise you’d be out of a job but if those habits do not lead to long-term success, if they leave you feeling burnt out, unfocused and stressed, then it’s time, like an Andean, to evolve.

The Long-Term Habits of Successful People

In this article we’re talking in particular about how to stay focused for long-term success and the changes you may have to accept in order to make that happen.

Easier said than done, some might say, but let’s start at looking at how successful people act.

In fact, let’s take a look at seven habits that will help you stay focussed and achieve your long-term goals. It’s never too late to make these changes in your daily working life.

1 Accept That Not Everything Is Going To Go Your Way:

Once you leave that sense of entitlement at the door, you’re free. What does this freedom look like? Well, when you believe everything should go the way you want it to, you leave yourself very little opportunity to try something new. When you accept that you may need to change and adapt you give yourself permission to experiment in your approach to trading, read more around the subject and open yourself up to taking advice from others. Advice that might just change your style for the better.

2 Define Your Long-term Goals:

As obvious as this sounds, it’s surprising how many people just focus on getting through the day. Sure, they may have a vaguely defined objective to retire at 45 or setting some kind of profit goal but what does real success look like to you?

Your long-term success doesn’t have to be dramatic.

Perhaps you’ll focus on changing up your effort-to-reward ratio, how much time and effort you put in analysing markets. You might achieve this by setting yourself specific times or watch specific markets. You might set long-term profit goals. If you struggle to make consistent profits each month, then taking the pressure off of yourself, as a hedge fund manager for example, will mean you judge your success in a more realistic way.

3 Work Out What Matters Most:

Or in one word – prioritise. Once you have one or two goals clearly mapped out, what one thing could you change to make that happen? Like someone trying to pursue a healthier lifestyle, don’t try and change everything at once but focus on creating one priority action that’s going to make a big difference to your day and to your future.

As an example, if you read this article on mindfulness then you might make the action of getting your head in the right place a key priority before you head into the office. It might be as esoteric as mindfulness practice or as practical as creating a daily, prioritised to-do list. Whatever it is, create a habit and see yourself flourish.

4 Stay Surprised:

Knowing you’re in a rut removes all the elements of excitement from your job. It can be almost impossible to regain that without making some major changes and having an attitude oil change. If you implement even one or two ideas from this list, you might surprise yourself by remembering what it was you loved about trading in the first place.

Nothing beats the excitement of waking up excited to go to work. Yes, you have your ups and downs but if your job is mainly in the up box then you’re going to find staying focused and successful that much easier and rewarding.

5 Don’t Take Knock-backs Personally:

Of course they often are but if there’s one personality trait you’ll need to evolve as a trader, it’s a thick skin. It’s normal to expect some criticism from your seniors and your peers but make a concerted effort to block out the personal and take on board the constructive.

In order for this to become second nature, it needs to become a daily habit.

Not easy of course but it can be done. Alan Lickerman, a doctor and practitioner of Buddhism, has the following advice: “Don’t react to the initial sting of negative feedback. It will fade. And until it does, it’s hard to make good use of what you’ve heard. Sometimes the best initial response upon hearing negative feedback is silence.”

He goes on to say that one great way of accepting constructive feedback is to act as if you’d made the discovery yourself. This has the two-fold effect of helping take the hurt feelings element out but also helps you take on board better the good advice you’ve been offered. Acting on good advice is a life-changing habit.

6 Check Motivation:

It’s easy to offer a glib response to the question of why you do what you do. “For the money” is often the answer given but for success in the long-term doing anything just for the money is not sustainable. Why? Because money, in and of itself, is not satisfying. Either you want more and there’s never enough or you have what you need. Money brings luxury, ease and comfort but by itself it’s not enough of a motivating factor to keep your focus steady.

Instead, ask yourself what else is driving you forward? It’s perfectly valid to simply love your job, to enjoy the process of watching and acting on a trade, of riding the rough and the smooth and being good at what you do. It’s enough to want to get your kids through college and set them up in their own homes. Ask yourself: will these motivations sustain me in the long-term or will I need to re-adjust them in the future?

7 Celebrate Success:

You’re putting in the effort to create better focus, is it paying off? When it does, mark that achievement. Too often traders don’t give themselves credit for the things that really count and in order for those positive new habits to stay cemented build some positive reinforcement around them.

Think outside the box when it comes to recognising success.

There will always be gadgets to buy, clothes to purchase and tech to lose yourself in, but how about some other markers? How about time away from the office and some serious downtime, how about pursuing a new passion or hobby? Think about what’s going to give you the chance to feel good about more than just a new watch on your wrist.

The Takeaway

Are you here for the long game? I hope you are.

More importantly, is it easy to play the long game? No. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

We’re talking life changing, goal setting, laser focused vision that results in day-to-day change. How ever you approach your work today, stop. Take some time to check on where your focus lies and carry out a mental check-list based on our seven top tips. It’s time to change up the game and give yourself the best chance of making a long-term success of your life, your job and your dreams.

Thanks for reading and happy trading.

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